LGBT Foundation says Goodbye to 5 Richmond Street and Hello to New Possibilities…
Published: 07 July 2020 Tags: By Joe Nellist
We have made the bold decision to say goodbye to our Community Centre at 5 Richmond Street in Manchester, as we embark upon another exciting stage of our journey in our 45-year history. This decision, which wasn’t taken lightly, will allow us to invest in further innovation of our vital and lifesaving work, and allow us to further support you our magnificent staff and volunteer team who deliver these services every day of the year.
In the last decade, we have evolved significantly as a charity. We have changed our name and our approach to become fully trans and bi inclusive, have expanded our delivery beyond Greater Manchester into other parts of the country, and in the last few months, have successfully shown that services can be delivered remotely.
We are extremely proud of our history and legacy in Manchester’s amazing Gay Village, one of the few remaining large LGBT quarters in the UK. We would not be where we are today without our space in the heart of the city, which has allowed many to find a safe refuge and a place where they can truly be themselves, often for the first time in their lives.
However, it has become clear that we are outgrowing our current building. Our staff numbers have increased, our volunteer base continues to grow, and the diversity and sheer number of services we offer has expanded.
In March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to take the then difficult decision to move nearly all our services online, a week before the Government announced its lockdown measures. Although this brought its own challenges, we have been overwhelmed by the positive reaction of our communities, our funders and all our stakeholders who have been so supportive.
Not only have we been able to support our existing service users we have also been able to support people who would never have been able to come to our physical space, whether for fear of being seen entering an identifiable LGBT space, or simply because public transport was not accessible or affordable to them.
Demand for our services continues to increase. Since lockdown many more people are using our services than ever before; more people are calling our helpline each day, with everyone seeking support on coming out, reporting a hate crime, getting support with challenges in their lives or simply reaching out due to isolation.
Our staff and volunteers have adapted incredibly to remote working, moving counselling and support group sessions online, posting out HIV testing kits and health resources, developing an online training academy and introducing a new telephone befriending service for the most isolated in our communities. We are immensely proud of their commitment and their tenacity in making this happen so smoothly and so quickly.
We know that this has been a very difficult time for many charities, but we have continued to deliver the majority of our services throughout the pandemic and with the needs of LGBT people increasing we know that LGBT Foundation has a vital role to play in the months and years ahead of us.
Although some organisations are beginning to return to their offices, no one can have certainty in what happens next. The decision not to renew our current lease, which finished in June, comes after a period of reflection on how we can best serve LGBT people who need us now, and in the future. We want to assure our communities that this does not mean access to LGBT spaces is being lost - quite the opposite, in fact. This is a chance for us to invest in the future and to be there for even more people who need us.
We are already exploring how we can expand our remote offer with an online Community Hub that is open to all. This will include engagement and support for those who face digital exclusion, and we are looking at different physical spaces in Manchester’s Gay Village and other locations across Greater Manchester where we can safely deliver face-to-face services. In fact, it is our intention to take our services to where people live, work and socialise and ensure we reach even more people than ever before.
We want to collaborate with new and existing partners to find spaces in other community centres where we can deliver services across Greater Manchester and beyond. We are particularly interested in talking to organisations who want to consider sharing space and partnering with us to deliver services to LGBT people in new and innovative ways in the widest range of geographical locations.
At the heart of this decision is our commitment to serving our communities in the best way possible. We want to help more people in crisis, to increase the confidence and wellbeing of LGBT people, and to create a stronger movement for LGBT equality - something that feels even more fragile and precarious at the moment than in the previous five years.
If you want to explore possibilities with us, have some space to offer or just want to have a chat about what we will be doing next we would very much welcome you getting in touch with us and joining us in our exciting new chapter.
Stay safe and stay in touch, and I look very much to hearing from you,
With all very best wishes,
Paul Martin OBE,